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Protestantism (from 'protestors') is one of three main groups of Christianity, typically referring to European churches that separated from the Roman Catholic Church during the Renaissance-era Protestant Reformation. A commonly given definition is merely 'any Christian denomination which is not Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christian.' The term 'Protestant' now represents a diverse range of perspectives, denominations, individuals, and related organizations, all typically focused on a worship of Jesus and a deference to the New Testament over the Old.

Protestantism is currently the dominant religion of many first-world countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. Certain forms of Protestantism -in particular, Evangelicalism (including Baptists and Pentecostals) - is also currently the fastest growing branch of Christianity today, with significant growth in countries such as China (Christian News Service), India and many nations in Europe as well as Africa.

The Reformation

The Reformation came about through a number of factors, notably that Rome had abused its political power (hence failed to provide for salvation), and the advent of the press -the printing of the Gutenberg Bible and dissident publications soonafter. But different Reformations had both a different character and different result depending on the region, culture, and theological doctrines. So while Martin Luther's '95 Theses' (1517) (preceded by the Hussites and Waldensians) offers the theological roots for much of Protestantism, the English Reformation (for example) was characterized largely by political power struggle between Rome and the English monarch. These distinctions were to some degree inherited to descendent churches, called 'denominations,' and notable differences remain between (for example) Anglican Churches and non-Anglican Protestant churches (Lutheran, Calvinist, etc.). 'Restorationism,' including Protestant denominations such as Presbyterianism, Baptist, and Methodist, characterizes denominations that reject some aspects of the Reformation. Two hundred years after the Reformation, in the United States, the 'Great Awakenings' led to the creation of other Protestant sub-denominations like the Baptists, Pentecostals, Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses. (Mormonism, though genearally classified as Protestant or Protestant-decended, holds rather divergent views from 'mainstream' Protestantism.)

Difference between Protestantism and Christianity

Some beliefs of the Roman Catholic church and conservative Protestant denominations are in opposition to each other. Examples are:

The acceptance of the theory of evolution by the Catholic church, and the continuing rejection by most conservative Protestants.

The acceptance of homosexual sexual orientation -- but not same-sex behavior -- as morally neutral by the Catholic Church, but not by many conservative Protestants.

The rejection of the death penalty by the Catholic church, and the continuing acceptance and promotion by most conservative Protestants.

Catholics place ultimate interpretive authority in the Pope and Magesterium. Conservative Protestants place it with the individual Christian and his/her interpretation of the Bible.

Catholics teach that the bread and wine during the mass becomes the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. Protestants generally regard the two components as symbolic of Jesus' body and blood.

The gap between the two groups appears to be increasing over time. Future reunification of the Christian religion appears impossible.

Both Catholics and conservative Protestants generally agree on some major theological matters, like the existence of angels, Mary's virgin conception; Jesus' sinless life, incarnation, crucifixion, bodily resurrection, and his imminent return of Jesus to Earth in the second coming; Heaven, Hell; the Trinity, and the deity of Jesus. They agree that his execution brought about atonement -- the potential to bridge the gulf between humanity and God caused by sin. However they disagree on how this was achieved. They partly agree about the significance of baptism, but disagree about the timing when it is normally performed. They do not agree on which books are included in the official canon of the Bible.


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